On May 7, my new book, “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief” launched and reached bestseller status in six categories on Amazon within 12 hours.

To an outsider, that might look like overnight success. Here’s how I did it, what it cost, and how you can do it, too.

Writing a Bestseller Without Advertising

“Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief” was the most expensive book I’ve ever written.

Unlike my first three books, which were self-edited and self-published, “FFTT” was a huge team effort.

Almost a year before it finally reached Amazon, the book was sent to a line editor named Ann Maynard. Ann went through the book word by word, shifting things around for flow and questioning the concepts that didn’t make sense. We spent four months going back and forth over little details.

Then the book went to my publisher, Scribe. Layouts, cover design, hiring a voice actor and producing the audiobook—all that took another six months.

Finally, the Scribe team posted the softcover and Kindle editions on Amazon. We marketed the book on my Facebook page and through my email list, but we didn’t spend a dollar on Amazon ads.

Twelve hours later, I had the bestselling book in several categories, including Business Ethics and Service Industry. And I was climbing the charts for sales in all book categories.

The process to copy edit, line edit, design and produce the book cost $23,500.

But that’s not why the book was successful.

A 10-Year Content Investment

The cover of the book "Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief" with the words "thank you" in gold beside it.

Click to order “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief.”

The real cost to write a first-day bestseller was publishing 10 years of content that helped my audience.

In 2008, I wrote my first blog post for other gym owners. I was struggling in my business, and I shared my challenges. I wrote every day for four years and poured out my thoughts every third day or so on a blog called DontBuyAds.com.

I wrote 400 blog posts and I had nothing to sell.

Then I wrote on a blog called 321Go for two years. In that case, I was helping a software company sell its mentorship packages.

When I finally re-established my own platform—Two-Brain Business—in 2016, I was starting from a blank slate again. But nearly 1,000 blog posts, 175 podcast episodes and dozens of videos later, I have an audience of thousands.

My email list—to which I write a love letter almost every day—has over 10,000 people on it. My open rate is 43 percent—an astounding number to people who sell through email for a living.

But I don’t sell over email; I help over email.

Likewise, I don’t sell books. I write books that help people.

And people want to read them.

Build Your Audience Today

“FFTT” sold for $0.99 in its first week. I make around 12 cents per copy.

It would take me 199,750 copies to make my investment back—if I was trying to make money by selling books.

But I’m not.

The reason “FFTT” became a six-time bestseller in one day wasn’t because of its positioning on Amazon. It wasn’t because of its cover design or ad spend.

It was because I had an audience waiting to read it.

More than 10,000 people on my email list and thousands more on Facebook knew that I wouldn’t waste their time. They knew I’d write about things that would actually help them. They knew I care about them. They were eager to hear more.

In the old days, a good book created a new audience. Bestseller lists, reading groups and bookstores sold the book and built the demand.

Now, that equation has flipped.

Good authors build an audience, listen to questions from that audience and then write a book. We deliver the book into their open, waiting hands.

That’s how bestsellers are created in 2019. 

So if you want to write a bestselling book tomorrow, help someone with a blog post or love letter today.